By Ray Schmidt
Like most of us that began Steelhead fly fishing in the Great Lakes region back in the early 1970's, frustration was the order of the day. Watching bait anglers using spinning gear catch fish after fish, when we went on for days with nothing lead me to rethink my method. Methods are a whole other story. What I observed was anglers using a bait that they called "wigglers". In reality the wiggler is a giant mayfly nymph know as "hexagenia limbata". Steelhead and other fish love them; they're a mouth full and then some. Lake Michigan tributary streams are loaded with this mayfly and Steelhead grew up in their natal streams eating them. When they return to those streams they remember "imprinted" the nymph and eat them as adults. Bingo! The Hex Nymph was born.
I started tieing a fly that had similarities using the materials that were available to me. I caught a Steelhead! I'm on to something! In 1977, I got lucky; I was introduced to a guy named Dave Whitlock. Dave gave me the idea to put some eyeballs on the nymph, like some he was tying, stone nymphs, damsels and the like. This greatly enhanced the effectiveness of the fly.
The fly today is still evolving as new materials come to the market and fly tiers start their experimenting. The simple fact remains this is one of the best flies ever developed for Steelhead.
Hex Nymph Recipe
Fishing the Hex Nymph
- Hook: Tiemco 200R, Daiichi 1270 or equivalent
- Thread: 3/0 light orange
- Eyes: Small black mono eyes
- Tail: Pheasant tail central fibers
- Shellback: Pheasant tail central fibers
- Rib: Fine wire copper
- Body: Life Cycle dubbing (golden orange color)
- Wing Case: Pheasant tail central fibers (treated with Flex-seal or Flexament)
- Thorax: 2/3 turns of Peach Estaz
- Legs: Partridge or hen saddle (sparse)
The Hex Nymph can be fished anytime, but spring and late fall are the best for Steelhead.
Fishing the fly slow and near bottom is best especially when water temperatures drop. The best methods for getting the fly in those zones and fishing the fly slow are a lifetime of learning. Dead drift with a common method called ?chuck and duck? or ?drift fishing? is probably the best. Another method is ?right angle nymph fishing?.